Tangled Bank: Read the Excerpt And Then Stuff That Stocking!

By Carl Zimmer | December 15, 2009 5:37 pm

beetle excerptThe National Center For Science Education (now at its new ncse.com address) is offering a free pdf of a chapter from my book, The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution. The chapter, called “Radiations and Extinctions,” is about the two sides of biodiversity. First I look at how biodiversity rises over time (the ascent of the animal kingdom, for example, and the wild exuberance of insects). Then I look at how biodiversity falls, thanks to background extinctions and mass extinctions. And then I take a look forward and see ominous signs for biodiversity’s future, such as corroding oceans.

If you like what you read, you can find out more about The Tangled Bank here. Or you can cut to the chase and get the whole book–as a holiday gift for yourself, or for that special someone who keeps asking you how we can be descended from monkeys if there are still monkeys around.


Comments (11)

  1. NewEnglandBob

    I just received my very own copy of Tangled Bank on Sunday. That email with suggestion for holiday presen actually worked!

    I have 100 pages to go on the book I am currently reading then Tangled Bank is next, probably by late tomorrow.

  2. HP

    Figure 10.5 — “radiaition” (x2!)

    I hope the PDF was taken from early galleys. Otherwise, ouch.

  3. Nope, it’s also a typo in my printed copy as well (pg 217, Fig 2.5D. But hey, every book has it’s typos, and spelling mistakes are much easier to tolerate than content mistakes. So far, so good! 😉

  4. Yeah, that one slipped through. But rest assured, any typos you folks catch will go straight onto my errata sheet, and get fixed in the next printing.

  5. Michael Heath

    I’ve had my copy for about a week, it’s my seventh book on evolution since a Darwinian rash of publications randomly (?) first hit in late 2008. I started with the under-appreciated Remarkable Creatures by Sean B. Carroll and ending this run with Tangled Bank. I was pleasantly surprised when I first perused Tangled Bank and not because I had low expectations! High quality materials, great graphics, and no supplemental learning material I feared would be included and taking up valuable space given its categorization as a text book. I knew the writing would be stellar and is.

    I’ve already come to realize this will become of my most valued reference books and am having trouble reading it straight through because I keep using it as a reference text to look up questions.

    I’ll probably write an Amazon review prior to finishing and then update accordingly given that Amazon has only two reviews; one of which I think is not accurate given its representation that Tangled Bank would be redundant if a person had previously read another introductory book like Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. I’ve been casually studying evolution for decades now, loved Coyne’s and Dawkins’ books, have went a step deeper reading Fairbanks book on DNA and Carroll’s on evo devo, and I’m still learning a lot from Tangled Bank, even after having read six previous books on the topic this past year. Plus none of those books are framed as reference books.

    I think you hit a three-run homer Carl. My only quibble and you noted it in your book was that you don’t include a chapter on human evolution, instead incorporating the evidence and principles into the relevant subject chapters. Since I already have your Smithsonian book on human evolution and Fairbanks on the DNA evidence for human evolution, that’s not a big deal to me though as much as I try not to be bio-centric (is that a word?), I do still like to see chapters in such books that are all about us.

  6. John Kwok


    I am glad you’ve covered radiations and mass extinctions, especially since Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” and Donald Prothero’s “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” notably neglect the important subject of mass extinctions. Moreover, it is especially relevant when someone as eminent as Stony Brook evolutionary ecologist Douglas Futuyma has observed that we really don’t understand extinction well at all.

    I am way behind in my reading and hope I can find a copy of “Tangled Bank” soon, but congratulations for both its publication and for covering mass extinctions and radiations.

    Appreciatively yours,


  7. John Kwok


    I might add too that Richard Dawkins doesn’t cover adequately either mass extinctions or radiations in his recently published “The Greatest Show on Earth” too.

  8. Daniel J. Andrews

    Good idea to put that pdf online, Carl. It just won you another book sale (maybe 2, one for a friend who has lent me 4 of his books this past fall which I still haven’t returned). I didn’t know about the mite harvestmen.

    By the way, I have your Parasite Rex but I didn’t connect your name with that book till just last year when you mentioned it in one of your posts. That is a great book too, and I used many of the examples when I taught invertebrate zoology and first-year biology.

  9. Daniel J. Andrews

    Just saw the price. One copy it is. My friend can borrow mine when I’m done. :-) Normally I’d wait for the paperback version but its Christmas.

  10. Greg

    Wow. So… I wasn’t sure if I wanted your book, Mr. Zimmer – a little bit much, and I’m already a reasonably knowledgeable evolution & science enthusiast. But the charts, oh the beautiful charts, accompanied by your typically excellent writing. I’m buying. Like another mentioned, this excerpt just won a purchase.

  11. Daniel J. Andrews

    Four to six week shipping date, Greg, at least from Amazon.ca here in Canada. It won’t be in my Christmas stocking, but it’ll make a nice present to counteract the January post-holiday ‘blahs’.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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